Theranostics 2011; 1:310-321. doi:10.7150/thno/v01p0310

Research Paper

Combining Portable Raman Probes with Nanotubes for Theranostic Applications

Ashwinkumar A. Bhirde1, Gang Liu1, Albert Jin2, Ramiro Iglesias-Bartolome3, Alioscka A. Sousa2, Richard D. Leapman2, J. Silvio Gutkind3, Seulki Lee1, Xiaoyuan Chen1, ✉

1. Laboratory of Molecular Imaging and Nanomedicine, National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA
2. Laboratory of Cellular Imaging and Macromolecular Biophysics, NIBIB, NIH, Bethesda, Maryland 20982, USA
3. Oral and Pharyngeal Cancer Branch, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), NIH, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA


Recently portable Raman probes have emerged along with a variety of applications, including carbon nanotube (CNT) characterization. Aqueous dispersed CNTs have shown promise for biomedical applications such as drug/gene delivery vectors, photo-thermal therapy, and photoacoustic imaging. In this study we report the simultaneous detection and irradiation of carbon nanotubes in 2D monolayers of cancer cells and in 3D spheroids using a portable Raman probe. A portable handheld Raman instrument was utilized for dual purposes: as a CNT detector and as an irradiating laser source. Single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs) and multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs) were dispersed aqueously using a lipid-polymer (LP) coating, which formed highly stable dispersions both in buffer and cell media. The LP coated SWCNT and MWCNT aqueous dispersions were characterized by atomic force microscopy, transmission electron microscopy, dynamic light scattering, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy and Raman spectroscopy. The cellular uptake of the LP-dispersed SWCNTs and MWCNTs was observed using confocal microscopy, and fluorescein isothiocyanate (FITC)-nanotube conjugates were found to be internalized by ovarian cancer cells by using Z-stack fluorescence confocal imaging. Biocompatibility of SWCNTs and MWCNTs was assessed using a cell viability MTT assay, which showed that the nanotube dispersions did not hinder the proliferation of ovarian cancer cells at the dosage tested. Ovarian cancer cells treated with SWCNTs and MWCNTs were simultaneously detected and irradiated live in 2D layers of cancer cells and in 3D environments using the portable Raman probe. An apoptotic terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase dUTP nick end labeling (TUNEL) assay carried out after laser irradiation confirmed that cell death occurred only in the presence of nanotube dispersions. We show for the first time that both SWCNTs and MWCNTs can be selectively irradiated and detected in cancer cells using a simple handheld Raman instrument. This approach could potentially be used to treat various diseases, including cancer.

Keywords: Irradiation, Raman, photothermal, multi-walled carbon nanotube (MWCNT), single-walled carbon nanotube (SWCNT), 3D cell culture.

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How to cite this article:
Bhirde AA, Liu G, Jin A, Iglesias-Bartolome R, Sousa AA, Leapman RD, Gutkind JS, Lee S, Chen X. Combining Portable Raman Probes with Nanotubes for Theranostic Applications. Theranostics 2011; 1:310-321. doi:10.7150/thno/v01p0310. Available from